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Contempt of Civil Court

College of Physicians BC v. Ezatti 2021 BCSC 205 sentenced “Dr. “ Ezatti to six months in jail plus a $15,000 fine for for flagrantly violating previous findings of contempt of court not to practice medicine which she continued to do over a period of two years.

The principles governing the imposition of a penalty for civil contempt were set out by the Court in Law Society of British Columbia v. Bryfogle, 2012 BCSC 59 at para. 80, and they are:

1. the gravity of the offence;

2. the need to deter the offender;

3. the past record and character of the offender and, in particular, whether this was a first offence;

4. the need to protect the public from the offender’s misconduct;

5. the extent to which the offender is able to pay a monetary penalty; and

6. the extent to which the breach was flagrant and wilfull and intended to defy the court’s authority.

In Langford (City) v. dos Reis, 2016 BCCA 460, the Court of Appeal adopted the list of relevant factors in Health Care Corp. of St. John’s v. Newfoundland and Labrador Assn. of Public and Private Employees, [2001] N.J. No. 17 (Nfld. T.D.):

 

1. The inherent jurisdiction of the court, as a superior court, allows for the imposition of a wide range of penalties for civil, as well as criminal, contempt;

2. Deterrence, both general and specific, but especially general deterrence, as well as denunciation, are the most important factors to be considered in the imposition of penalties for civil, as well as criminal, contempt;

3. The impact that the contemptuous act has had on the general public, particularly in relation to health and safety matters, is a relevant consideration in determining the level of penalty;

4. It is the defiance of the court order, and not the illegality of any actions which led to the granting of the court order in the first place, which much be the focus of the contempt penalty;

5. Imprisonment is not normally an appropriate penalty for civil contempt where there … [are] no repeated unrepentant acts of contempt;

6. Where a fine is to be imposed, the level of the fine may appropriately be graduated to reflect the degree of seriousness of the failure to comply with the court order;


9. In setting the overall level of penalty, the court may take account of the level of penalty imposed in similar cases in the past and may adjust the penalty upwards or downwards, depending on the court’s assessment as to whether previous levels of penalty have had an effective general deterrent effect;

10. In ordering payment of a fine, the court may permit, by imposition of appropriate conditions, the contemnor to satisfy the fine in alternative ways, such as a payment to a charity or the provision of free services to persons harmed by the continuance of the contemptuous behaviour.

College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia v. Khakh, 2019 BCSC 501 (Khakh #1) at para. 24:

Self-regulating professions are founded upon public trust and this is perhaps especially so in the case of the health professions. Persons engaging in unauthorized practice of these professions … do great damage not only to the individuals they claim to be treating, but to public confidence.

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